Special offers 'not that special'

Moving shopping cart, and shot with a slow shutter from the shopper's point of view. The fruits in the shopping cart is in focus

Supermarkets are duping customers into paying more for groceries which are supposed to be on special offer, a new campaign suggests.

Consumer group Which? said research shows that supermarkets have been selling products in offers that do not give shoppers a real deal.
%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Which? analysed more than 70,000 grocery prices and found examples of misleading multibuys which end up costing consumers more and dodgy discounts where the offer ran for much longer than the item was at the higher price.

For instance, it found a Sainsbury's special offer for Carex Aloe Vera & Eucalyptus Moisturising Antibacterial Handwash, where the item was priced at £1.80 for seven days, then was on offer at "was £1.80, now 90p" for 84 days.

Ocado sold a 12-pack of Beck's beer as "was £12.19, now £9" for almost a month but had only sold the item at the higher price for three days.

Asda increased the regular price of Muller Light Greek Style Yoghurt from £1.50 to £2.18 before it went on a "two for £4" offer, costing shoppers £1 more. It also increased the price of Uncle Ben's Express Basmati Rice from £1 to £1.58 before offering for "two for £3" and then returning the rice to £1 when the offer ended.

Which?, through its Make Special Offers Special campaign, wants supermarkets to put an end to misleading offers. It has also called on the Government to make rules for special offers simpler, clearer and stricter and enforce tougher penalties for rule-breaking supermarkets.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said the findings come at a bad time for consumers.

Four in 10 consumers are likely to cut back spending on food in the next few months, while eight in 10 are looking out for deals in supermarkets to save them money, he said.

"We've found dodgy discounts across the aisles, and with rising food prices hitting shoppers' budgets hard we think supermarkets are not playing fair," Mr Lloyd said.

"The stores have had long enough to sort their act out, so we're saying enough is enough, it's time to Make Special Offers Special."

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Special offers 'not that special'

This takes time, but once you know the cost of a phone call, putting the dryer on, or a bag of potatoes, it enables you to judge far better how much you can afford to consume.

Once you know the base price, you are in a position to keep your eyes open for a better offer. If you see a discount you can judge for yourself whether it actually constitutes a bargain. For bigger things like utilities it enables you to do a proper price comparison and see if you can cut your bills.

Don't just assume that the premium range is better, try the every-day brand, or even the basic version and see if you spot the difference. Likewise, consider trading down your supermarket from one of the big players to local markets or discounters like Aldi.

If you plan what you buy to match what you actually cook and eat then not only will you be able to budget far more effectively, but you'll also waste much less and find your money goes further without you having to try.

If you can't think of a way to get your meat for less, consider a vegetarian day once a week. If you can't find petrol any cheaper, then work on making your driving as efficient as possible. The more you can think of clever alternatives the less you will have to make painful cuts to make ends meet.

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